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Articulating the WorldConceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image$
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Joseph Rouse

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226293677

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226293707.001.0001

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Laboratory Fictions and the Opening of Scientific Domains

Laboratory Fictions and the Opening of Scientific Domains

(p.287) Nine Laboratory Fictions and the Opening of Scientific Domains
Articulating the World

Joseph Rouse

University of Chicago Press

Philosophies of science often compress the two-dimensional normativity of scientific understanding by subordinating conceptual articulation to the justification of articulated judgments. One manifestation of this compression is concern about “fictional” representations in the sciences. This chapter focuses attention on conceptual articulation in scientific practice by considering a different analogy between scientific understanding and literary fiction, exemplified by experimental systems rather than models, thought experiments, or simulations. Experimental systems are “microworlds” where conceptual relations can be clarified in simplified, “well-behaved” circumstances that guide their deployment in more complex settings. Kuhn’s classic discussion of thought experiments, for example, presumes “normal usage” of concepts, but a prior question is how usage is first normalized to allow reasoning about claims in those terms, as “true-or-false.” Chapter 8 identified conceptual domains in the sciences with holistically interrelated sets of laws and scientific skills for recognition and adjudication of lawful patterns. This chapter explores how constructing novel experimental systems as “fictional” microworlds opens such domains by establishing canonical patterns of reporting and inference that constitute such lawful interrelations in an experimental practice. This performative “fictional” opening of conceptual domains illustrates in the sciences the retrospective dimension of the temporality of conceptual normativity.

Keywords:   two-dimensional normativity, conceptual articulation, fiction, thought experiments, Kuhn, experimental systems, microworlds, conceptual domains, inference, temporality

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